The Dean of the Duke University School of Business is getting some publicity today for what he said about leadership. A reporter asked him about teaching leadership and the Dean responded, “The classic model of leadership is to find the smartest person in the room and have that person tell everyone what to do. That is not the kind of leadership that produces the innovation the world needs. The kind of leader who succeeds today is the leader who can bring people together and make great things happen through collaboration.” We could not agree more, but he missed a critical ingredient.
Organizations can choose the most collaborative person in the world, but if the organization is not designed for collaboration, neither that leader nor the organization can succeed. How can someone in an organization contribute to a collaborative effort if they do not have access to the information they need to form a sound judgment, a system in which their voice has a legitimate role, or even knowledge of what their colleagues are saying?
The all-powerful leaders of the political, business and other worlds whose organizations protect them from interference by those who they lead are still with us. But for the most part they are presiding over no-growth, suffocating organizations on their way to being obsolete. A good bit of the decline in union power over the last 50 years can be attributed to them.